I skipped my usual leaf peaking trip this year in favor of another trip. I was asked to help a friend move across the country and in doing so we would stop at several points of interest. The first being the Mount Rushmore National Monument. As you traverse up the winding mountain road to visit the monument you will get a wonderful glimpse of what you are going to see.
This monument has no charge to visit, but there is a parking fee. If you have a national parks pass, it does not work here. You will be required to pay a fee to park and I encourage you to check out the web site to get parking fee prices as they do change.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is visited by nearly 3 million people a year. If you visit South Dakota you will be amazed at the beauty of the Black Hills of the state, You can learn about the birth of the nation, the growth and development of the country and how it can be preserved. The Mount Rushmore National Memorial has visitors from every nation in the world, and shares the rich heritage of the country. Parking is available in a parking complex that can hold everything from a tiny car, a motor home, an RV of any size and in our case an extremely long U-Haul truck. The reason there is a parking fee is that the parking facility is operated under a contract between the National Park Service and the Mount Rushmore Society. No Federal funding was ever used to construct the facility; so a parking fee has been authorized to offset the costs that were associated with the construction of the parking complex. This fee also helps in the operation and maintenance of the parking complex. A parking permit entitles a non-commercial vehicle unlimited entry to the memorial for the calendar year it is issued in. So if you went to visit the memorial for Christmas your parking pass would allow you entry until January 1 of the next year. So a week long. If you went to the monument in May then you would be allowed entry to the parking complex until the end of the year.
Mount Rushmore was named after a New York City attorney, Charles E. Rushmore, who came to the Black Hills in 1884-1885 to check on legal titles on properties. Upon returning to the Pine Camp he asked Bill Challis the name of the Mountain. Bill came back with this reply, “ Never had a name, but from now on we’ll call it Rushmore.” Challis and David Swanzey had made the trip with Rushmore.
I mention this only because David Swanzey was married to Caroline Celestia Ingalls Swanzey. If the name Ingalls hits your radar, it might be because Caroline “Carrie” Ingalls was a younger sister of Laura Ingalls Wilder, known for her Little House series of books and the television show.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture that has been carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore, near Keystone, South Dakota. It was sculpted by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum. The heads of the four Presidents carved into the side of the mountain are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln are 60 feet high. While the entire memorial covers 45 acres of ground and is 5,725 feet above sea level. While the sculptor’s were the Borglum father and son, the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people in the Black Hills region of South Dakota was the brain child of South Dakota historian Doane Robinson. He thought it would be a great way to promote tourism into the region.
The initial idea was to sculpt the Needles of South Dakota, but Borglum rejected the idea of the the Needles site because of the poor quality of the granite and some very strong opposition from Native American groups of the area. They settled on Mount Rushmore as the optimum location because it also has the advantage of receiving the maximum exposure from the sun with its southeast facing mountainside.
Robinson wanted the sculpture to feature western heroes like Lewis and Clark, Buffalo Bill Cody and Red Cloud, but Borglum decided that the sculpture should have a national focus and chose the four presidents that had made important contributions to our national history. He had help making the decision of the faces that would grace Mount Rushmore. After securing and receiving federal funding, construction on the memorial began in 1927. It took long negotiations, a congressional delegation and President Calvin Coolidge to help get the project funded.
The faces of the presidents were completed between 1934 and 1939. Upon the death of Gutzon Borglum’s death in March 1941, his son, Lincoln Borglum, took over the construction. And although the initial concept of the memorial called for each president to be depicted from head to waist, lack of funding halted the construction to end in late October of 1941. One other note to mention about the construction of this monument…there were no fatalities during the whole process.
When Robinson originally conceived the idea for Mount Rushmore in 1923 he had to find a sculptor willing to do the project. He found Borglum who was involved in the sculpting of the Confederate Memorial Carving, a memorial to Confederate leaders on Stone Mountain in Georgia, but he was in discord with the officials there. He traveled to the Black Hills to see the Needles that were planned to hold the sculptures, but he saw that the eroded Needles were to thin to support sculpting. Upon seeing Mount Rushmore, he said, “America will march along that skyline.” Congress authorized the Mount Rushmore National Memorial Commission on March 3, 1925. Now I said earlier that Borglum had help in deciding whose face would grace the side of the mountainside. President Coolidge insisted that along with the first President of the United States, Washington, two Republicans, and one Democrat be portrayed. With that stipulation in mind, Borglum chose the other three faces you can see on the mountainside. He chose the other Presidents because of their role in “preserving the Republic and expanding its territory.
The extensive visitor facilities and sidewalks that now grace the Monument were completed in 1998. There is a Visitor Center, The Lincoln Borglum Museum and the Presidential Trail. Maintenance of the memorial requires mountain climbers to monitor and seal cracks annually. Due to budget constraints, the memorial is not regularly cleaned to remove lichens that attach themselves to the sculpture. However, Alfred Karcher BmbH & Co. Kg., a German manufacturer of Pressure washing and steam cleaning machines offered to conduct a free cleanup operation of the Monument on July 8, 2005. The operation took several weeks to complete using pressurized water that was over 200º Fahrenheit.
This monument is an amazing sight to see and if you can take the time to go and see it, I highly recommend it. But just for your edification, where ever you go around the Monument you will feel the eyes of greatness upon you. As you walk the walkway to the Grand View of the Monument you will find that pillars along the way are marked with the states, the flag of the state and when it became a state. It really is a Grand View.